GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY (November 5, 2021) – With the help of ASU Prep Digital staff and educators, six American Teenagers are continuing to pursue their dream of becoming professional soccer players in Europe: Christian Chandler, Cameron Hein, Trace Higham, Antonios Loukas, Colin McGinnity and Christian Pöhlein.
Immersed in the professional soccer environment of Bundelsiga club FC Schalke 04, the six Sun Devils live and train on the famed Schalke Youth Academy campus in Gelsenkirchen, Germany known as the Knappenschmiede, with 16 teammates from across the United States and Canada. The players often train twice a day with one day a week off, while playing games once a week.
The groundbreaking initiative between International Soccer Academy and the famed Bundesliga talent development factory, FC Schalke 04, launched this fall and is a nine-month program that concludes in May 2022. International Soccer Academy partnered with Schalke to provide authentic and real player development experience abroad for talented players in US and Canada, and the unique collaborative Integrated Academy is the only program of its kind. The inaugural Under-18 squad of 22 elite players have been training at the Knappenschmiede and competing against regional academy teams (MSV Duisburg, Schwarz-Weiß Essen, FC Kray, TSC Eintracht Dortmund). Highly competitive matches to take on top-tier academy teams in the Bundesliga later in the season are scheduled with Hertha Berlin, Schalke 04, Arminia Bielefeld and Fortuna Düsseldorf, among others.
The inaugural squad was handpicked by scouts and coaches from the FC Schalke 04 sporting department after an extensive nationwide search and thorough evaluation process. Only one in every 10 players were approved by Schalke scouts and offered a roster spot to join the Integrated Academy team.
“I think that ASU Prep Digital is similar to college in the fact that the student has the responsibility for their own learning,” said Christian Chandler. “And beyond college, I feel it is preparing us for the real world.”
“During my first few months with ASU Prep Digital, I have built relationships with my teachers who help me with assignments, time management and other general questions,” Cameron Hein said. “As students we have now become responsible for our own learning and spending our time wisely around our soccer schedule.”
“I really like how responsive the teachers are,” said Deborah Pöhlein, Christian Pöhlein’s mother. “Their comments and explanations are so detailed. For example, on an essay, you can really understand what needs either more development or is good as is. I also like how Christine (D’Antonio), Christian’s learning coach, helps my son be on top of everything and stay organized. It’s really great to have one key person to discuss all matters with.”
“I think ASU Prep Digital has been great since I’ve started,” Christian Pöhlein said. “I have been able to resolve all of my issues and questions and I have complete control over what and when I want to do school.”
“ASU Prep Digital makes school easier when you’re in a residential program like we are because it frees up your day to train in the mornings with our coaches,” said Colin McGinnity. “I like being able to do sections of my courses throughout the day, it’s a lot easier than trying to do it in one long sitting. Also, our learning coach Christine (D’Antonio) is very helpful with anything we need, like adjusting schedules or helping with the program.”
Christian Chandler – Player Page
A Junior defensive midfielder from San Antonio, Texas Christian Chandler started playing soccer at age four. Prior to joining the FC Schalke 04 residency program, Chandler attended L.E.E. High School, where he won the Texas High School 6A State Championship as a sophomore. On the club side, Chandler played most recently for Classics Elite Soccer Academy and San Antonio FC. In nine games played this season for FC Schalke 04, Chandler has recorded one goal and one assist.
Cameron Hein – Player Page
Hailing from Frostburg, Maryland Cameron Hein started playing soccer at age five and made the switch to goalkeeper at age 12. Before making the move to Germany, Hein was Sophomore class president at Bishop Walsh High School in Cumberland, Maryland. The captain of his former club, FC Alliance West Virginia, Hein was selected to the Maryland State ODP (Olympic Development Program) from 2019-2021.
Trace Higham – Player Page
A Senior from Acworth, Georgia Trace Higham began playing soccer at the age of three. Prior to FC Schalke 04, Higham played his last two seasons for the highly respected Barça Residency Academy, the MLS Next Club in partnership with the Spanish soccer giant FC Barcelona (Casa Grande, Arizona). For the 2020-2021 season, Higham recorded five goals 11 assists where FC Barcelona successfully competed against elite clubs from across the country.
Antonios Loukas – Player Page
From Lake Worth, Florida Antonios Loukas is completing his Senior year with ASU Prep Digital. Before moving to Gelsenkirchen, Germany to chase his professional soccer dreams, Loukas played for South Florida Football Academy, an MLS Next club. A midfielder, Loukas is keeping his professional options open but is currently committed to the University of Connecticut. At FC Schalke 04, Loukas has scored four goals in nine matches played.
Colin McGinnity – Player Page
Playing soccer since the age of three, Colin McGinnity committed to the International Soccer Academy — FC Schalke 04 residency program to jumpstart his goal of playing professionally in Europe. Prior to Schalke, McGinnity played for Spokane Sounders and Eastern Washington Surf. A Junior from Colbert, Washington McGinnity plays the striker position.
Christian Pöhlein – Player Page
An attacking winger from Pennington, New Jersey Christian Pöhlein is a Junior at ASU Prep Digital. Before joining FC Schalke 04, Pöhlein played for Princeton FC and attended Hopewell Valley High School. So far this season, Pöhlein has recorded two goals and two assists in nine matches played for Schalke.
By the time most elite, high-level youth soccer players in America are 17 Years old, they have been playing consistently with the same club for several years. The Integrated Academy team met for the first time on August 11 and have been quickly building incredible chemistry ever since. In the 10 games played so far this season, the squad has posted a record of 5-3-2, netting 18 goals and conceding 15.
Founded by Eddie Loewen and Diane Scavuzzo in 2020, International Soccer Academy is the world’s leading youth soccer to professional career bridging program, with an ongoing mission to provide a solid pathway for elite players aspiring to play abroad. Providing real, authentic and expert development opportunities with top European professional soccer clubs, International Soccer Academy is focused on developing confident and successful players that are driven to reach their goals, whether that is to sign a professional soccer contract in Europe or the United States, or play Division 1 soccer.
To date, four International Soccer Academy players have signed contracts to be paid to play soccer with one additional player signing to play with a U19 Bundesliga club.
For further information, please contact:
Marketing and Communications Director
Player Operations Advisor – FC Schalke 04
International Soccer Academy – Links
*If you would like a higher resolution image than you are able to find online on our Flickr account, please let us know. However, please note that you can download the original high-resolution image if you wish from Flickr.
FC Schalke 04 U18 Integrated Academy – Information
Example player article: https://txkmag.com/news/sports/kickin-it-in-germany/
FC Schalke 04 partnership announcement: https://schalke04.de/knappenschmiede/aktuell/us-kooperation-knappenschmiede-empfaengt-u18-team/